Hear that cicada sound? That’s nature’s “event notification”

If you have a smart phone, you’ve probably set up event notifications.  It reminds you to take out the trash, or pick up something from the store.  Well, nature has event notifications too.  Here on the east coast, we’re about to be greeted with a sight that most people’s eyes and ears dread….the 17 year cicadas.  Yes, if you live near a forest or ground that hasn’t been dug up for 17 years, you’re about to be swarmed upon by the shrill, bug-eyed  creature’s most abundant emerging.  Brood II as it’s scientifically called, is nicknamed the “east coast brood” for good reason.  It is the largest emergence of Magicicadas, which are the 17 year species, and their extent stretches from as far north as Connecticut down to southern Virginia.  Certain species of cicadas emerge every year, but this emergence hasn’t been seen since 1996, and should be a big one.   Now, a lot of development has happened in suburbia in the last 17 years, many parts of the MD/VA/DC area have completely changed and are environmentally unrecognizable from 1996, but if you live in a more rural or undisturbed part, you’re going to get the full effect.
Now, first off, don’t panic.  They are annoying and can startle you when you find them all over trees or on your house, but they are harmless.  Their deafening song may sound like 4-6 weeks of being woken up early to most people, but to a gardener it’s the sound… of TOMATOES!! 
Here’s a bit of old-timey knowledge, mixed in with a bit of science.  Back before we had accurate weather prediction models and satellites to track clouds and temperatures, people relied on nature to tell them when to plant and harvest.  Cicadas emerge when the ground temperature is above 63 degrees F, which coincidentally is the same temperature that tomatoes need to thrive outdoors!  So when you start to hear the call of the cicadas, it means that it’s time for you to start putting your tomato plants outside during the day to get them hardened off, and then plant them soon after.  Tomatoes need soil temperature above 60 degrees during the day and 50 degrees at night.  So get your gardening supplies ready or follow along with my journey, we’re about to get to the good part, growing your own food!


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